Suburban Wife, Mother, College Grad & Sex-Worker Talks About Porn. ~ Elle Lynn Stanger

Via on Oct 28, 2012

We’ve needed to rethink our perception of pornography for decades.

I think I’m fairly typical. I grew up with two parents, went to college, graduated, got married and recently had my first child. I live in a relative suburban section of Portland, Oregon. In many aspects, I am a typical candidate for consumption of so called mommy porn. Who am I?

I’m also a sex worker.

It started with the porn shop. After a couple years dabbling in health care, I grew tired of often ending my shifts in tears. On a whim, I dropped an application at a local adult store, and was hired. The four years I spent behind the counter of the porn shop taught me much more than any psychology, sociology, or human sexuality class ever could; that the retail end of the sex industry is a clear reflection of people as a whole. Many of us are having sex. Having sex with our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, partners, and having sex with our selves. From giggling college kids to spectacle-wearing grannies, all kinds of people are getting in on sex.

Cheerful couples walking hand in hand, solo men looking for a quick masturbation in the video booth on the way home from work. Street walking prostitutes of both genders, looking to earn a few dollars. I’ll never forget the newly married young military couple, arriving at our doorstep to select the lingerie and lube that they would bring on their honeymoon. They walked the store hand in hand, her white dress trailing behind her, their eyes full of hope for their future together. Alternately, later that week, I had to summon the janitor, because someone had anonymously defecated on the floor of arcade number three, presumably post-masturbation. Yep, as a porn clerk, I saw a lot.

When I started the porn clerking, I was fortunate to have an insider’s peek into the adult industry. Two of my close female friends had become porn stars after high school. In the industry, these two girls made it big, their smiling, lip-sticked faces appearing on glossy, triple X-rated DVDS, branding sex toys with major toy companies like Doc Johnson and Cal Exotics. One was often featured in music videos, the other appeared in the television show Entourage as herself.

These two girls had grown up in the same town, had the same circle of friends, yet were starkly contrasting their experience as pornographers.

Porn Star A maintained her sobriety, lived solo or with friends, had a few boyfriends, bought her mom a car and herself  a modest house on the beach. She appeared in 100 titles in her first two years, on many of them she received top billing and the cover, a small feat in the porn industry. She is happy and healthy, and we speak on occasion.

Girl B admitted to a heavy cocaine habit, married twice, had two children, one of which she never sees. She was a survivor of domestic abuse, and does not speak to her family. The last time I saw her image, she looked a decade older than her actual age of 25. I haven’t spoken with her in years. What is the simple moral of their stories? There is no absolute, these women surrounded themselves with good or bad people, and chose their own paths. Pornography was their livelihood, yet only incidental to their own happiness.

While I admired their fame and multi-digit earnings, I didn’t try my hand at porn. Rather, I took the soft core approach and was hired by a semi-nude website. At the age of 19 I was modeling nude for a world-famous website. I appreciated the random gifts I would receive from faraway admirers, and the incoherent, fantasy-laden emails that would clutter my inbox didn’t really bother me much more than any other junk mail.

Reactions from strangers, friends and family ran the gamut from disgust to pure admiration. Some of the other models and I became friends, the woman who photographed my wedding I had met at an airport on the way to a tattoo convention. We attended each other’s weddings.

At the age of 23 I decided to try my hand at stripping, and found that pole dancing was both lucrative and challenging, physically and psychologically. I showed up on time, drank little, never did drugs, and minded my own business. In short, I behaved as if I was working a job, because it is. I won a couple local pole competitions, and performed in burlesque shows for fun. I watched some of my peers thrive and enjoy the industry, competing in pole competitions and modeling gigs, while others would quietly cry in the backstage area, feeling trapped by their chosen profession.

In television and movies, we are shown stereotypes of men who lurk in strip clubs; gangsters, thugs, and creepy old men. My experience was different.

I met my husband and father of my daughter at work, and he is the face of corporate America. Rarely a day passes when I don’t see a stranger on the street or on television, wearing some of his creations. Similarly to the porn shop, I meet and interact with many types of individuals and couples. I’m always delighted when a wife will purchase a private dance for her husband, or if I have the pleasure of dancing for a couple.

Only last week, an unfamiliar woman waved me down as I approached the stage, and pressed a $20 in my hand. “I want you to take my husband, and give him the hottest dance he’s ever had.” I did so, and afterwards, she thanked me and explained; “I know that he’s going to come home to me, and fuck me like crazy.” It’s wonderful to be such a marital aid!

Of course, not everyone is so secure. My peers and I always shake our heads at the ladies who sit beside their partner, their fingers tightly clasping their drink, teeth set and eyeballs burning holes into our chests. These women have typically visited the strip club at the behest of their man-friend, if only to appear cool, sexy, and if nothing else to keep tabs on him.

There’s a lot of complaining about the ‘reality’ of porn, with opponents arguing pornography presents an unrealistic representation of sex. Well, duh. True, most women don’t wear six inch Lucite stilettos while doing the dirty, and I’ll wager that most males don’t wax their entire bodies either, but much of this is par for the porno course.

Someone might want to point out, that there’s not much truth to any kind of visual media or advertising. The women in H&M ads don’t wake up looking so airbrushed, and as for Victoria’s Secret, most American women won’t look like their runway Angels if they purchase a bra, no matter how miraculous it is. And while the traditional pornography has typically been of a cartoonish and outlandish aesthetic, my feminist and alternative pornographer friends know better, and are beginning to change it. Porn production companies like Abby Winters and Eon Mckai will show you the girls next door, not just the ladies from Silicon Valley. Director and performer Joanna Angel has produced her own brand of tattooed porn stars, and powerhouse porn star Belladonna has featured and fucked every flavor there is; transgendered to typical.

There are women who are diehard feminists; I call them my friends. Some of them are webcam ladies. Most of them are strippers, and a few are pornographers. I listened with delight as my dear friend and adult star Sadie West detailed her love of  filming, especially her enthusiasm for blow job scenes. I can recall clearly the hot, sticky afternoon I spent in the NE Portland feminist bookstore, where queer pornographer Sophia St James explained her drive to create scenes for real people, of all genders and kinks.

As humans, we are curious, it is our nature to explore and create. How else would we have built the pyramids, crossed seas, or discovered fire? Humans are resourceful as we are inquisitive, and we like to learn about everything. Reality television has shown us that humans are natural voyeurs; we also like to witness how other people live. Pornographers know this, and they show us how other people fuck.

In truth, I have not yet read Fifty Shades of Grey. I might get to it, I may not.

In adult entertainment, in the sex industry, there is no black and white. As in life, things are rarely so simplistic. Rather, we find a grey area, and the outcome depends on the individual. I haven’t quit using porn, although using wouldn’t be the correct nomenclature. I utilize porn. For when I would like to relax, for when I would like inspiration, or for when I am feeling curious.

Porn, nudity, sex, masturbation, lap dances. If we as human beings are shaped by our experiences, than I cannot create a reality for any other woman or man. Is porn bad or good? I can’t tell, really. It’s a grey area, with many shades in between.

Fifty Shades of Grey, indeed.

 

(This is the first in a seven-part series over seven days, in colloboration with the Good Men Project, addressing the question: Is Porn a Good  Thing? For GMP’s first two in the series, Pleasureland and O Hai Porn.)

 

Elle Lynn Stanger is a graduate of Portland State University and a stripper in Portland, Oregon. Her column in Portland’s Exotic Magazine is entitled Erotic Muse, and she models as Casper Suicide. Her interests include law enforcement, political science and poodles.

 

 

 

~

Editor: Lori Lothian

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20 Responses to “Suburban Wife, Mother, College Grad & Sex-Worker Talks About Porn. ~ Elle Lynn Stanger”

  1. Julia says:

    This is a ridiculous and offense article.

  2. Tizzle says:

    This is an excellent article and a refreshing view of the pornography/sex industry. But Elle, my love, you’ve left out one very, very important fact. How utterly degrading, disrespectful and often times, downright hateful the pornography and sex industry is toward women. It tends to perpetuate unhealthy cultural attitudes toward women (rape culture, anyone?), and for a woman who is so seemingly spiritual and empowered, I would have expected you to at least make note of this fact. Perhaps that’s coming in Part II. I’ll stay tuned with an open mind and heart.

    • Elle Lynn Stanger says:

      Hi Tizzle,

      You're right, it absolutely can be. But so can music (all genres) art (all genres) and arguably even television shows like Seth McFarlane's 'Family Guy' perpetuate a rape culture; try to get through one episode without a rape or abuse joke. I'm looking to the future and the positive evolution of the industry.

  3. fergus denhamer says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and for the insights into an industry I know little about……..like all the things in our lives which cause the most polarity (religion, politics, money…..) sex provides a wonderful cauldron where our fears, habits and beliefs are mirrored clearly back at us. At some point would be great to get an understanding of how you experience the energy of the room when your performing and if you use the power of the sexual energy created in any way.

  4. Rose says:

    Great article! Wholeheartedly agree with the viewpoints expressed here. I notice the comment about it being offensive and ridiculous, but I would wager that those opinions come from years of dogma and social conditioning rather than any personal experience, or better yet, looking at a new situation with an open mind. Thanks Elle for your perspective!

  5. A dude says:

    Sex still remains taboo, and this does put a positive face on an industry that thrives, regardless of the taboo's that exist, especially as noted by the comments so far. If our society borrowed from the attitude of ancient cultures of India, we'd all be much better off.

  6. shane says:

    Great article. I agree, as well. Things would go so much easier if we as a society could just own up to our own selves and drives, be they "socially acceptable" or not. Dogma is right. Understandably, there will always be those who take too much of a good thing and distort its value into something unwholesome but there is nothing wrong with loving yourself in a healthy and fun way. I come from a conservative family so tend to keep my secret desires low pro, but the real shame is having to sneak around, feeling like you're doing something wrong. What's so bad about being curious so long as you respect yourself and others and stay safe?

  7. Timmy_Robins says:

    I dont mean to be rude but I cant imagine how it feels to have a porn-mommy. Sorry, but the first thing that came to my mind when I read this was the child. I just think it is sad…but hey , that is just my opinion.

    Are you not worried your child might resent your career choice in the future? Just curious.

    • There are countless jobs a parent could have that might prove embarrassing to children, especially if they get teased by other children about it. So, should someone like a janitor or garbage collector be ashamed and worried that their child might resent their occupation in the future? Furthermore, most porn work of the performer variety is a short to medium term job – like a few years – so calling that a "career choice" is a stretch. Many porn workers choose it as a means for financing the training and other expenses involved in starting what you'd probably call a "real" career. Finally, you're basing this child-shame fear on the premise that said child will inevitably grow up believing that sex-work is a dirty, shameful thing, when it's pretty likely they won't have that attitude if raised by parents who don't have it. Your question (not meant to be rude, of course) is sort of like asking a gay parent if they're worried about their children resenting their sexual orientation, since you can't imagine having a gay-parent yourself.

  8. Sarah Cockles says:

    This is such a complicated debate. There is no denying, we live in a very sexualised society and human sexuality is a massive part of who we are. I totally respect Elle's choice to work in whatever job she chooses and I don't see a problem with that, however, it is important to acknowledge that there is a really dark side to the porn industry, which Elle hasn't really addressed in this article.

    Many women and coerced or forced into working as sex workers either through violence or economic necessity. They do not have control over their situation as Elle does, they are not able to "choose their own path".

    I agree with Tizzle, the majority of porn presents women as sex objects, often in violent scenarios and because porn is so freely available this is where many young men and women are learning about sexuality and sex. I work with young people in a Contraception and Sexual Health Service and I believe that exposure to porn can cause problems for young people in developing a healthy sexual identity and going on to have intimate loving sexual relationships, as these are hardly ever presented as part of pornography.

    Finally addiction to sex and pornography is a very real problem that ruins many lives.

    Don't get me wrong I have no problem with beautiful free human sexuality in whatever form which is based on equality, consent and mutual respect between partners but this is rarely represented in the porn industry. I personally believe that at present, on balance, most of the Porn industry output does more harm than good in society.

  9. lavendercotton says:

    I found your article very interesting. A breath of fresh air… raw but not vulgar… offering insights otherwise hard to obtain. Perhaps the resistance commonly held by women..and myself for that matter.. is that it threatens the sense of self. Creates an idea in our minds that we must be a certain way, that no matter what: we're not good enough, that our sexy will never turn a man as much as their/your/'vulgarity's' sexy.. very interesting indeed.. I look forward to your next posts

  10. Joe Sparks says:

    Women's liberation has been sold as women having the choice to have sex any way they want. Because they appear to get a choice, they're "liberated." Essentially women are being offered men's distresses around sex as progress. Well, it's equality in a certain sense, but I don't think it's what we are after. Pornography is damaging to both men and women. Nothing rational about the use of it.

  11. ed mcbain says:

    I find it staggering that the first comment should be so hostile! This is a beautifully written, well considered article from a strong woman – showing several facets of a complex industry. I guess this goes to show how deeply wounded some people are in the area of sexuality and I grant that the porn industry has a lot to answer for. But don't take our your frustrations with the world at large on a thoughtful writer, putting words out in a space which promotes awareness, clear thinking, and non violence…
    Thank you Elle….

  12. annie says:

    this is a fantastic article. nothing is black and white. when we create black and white…. moral blockades…binaries of RIGHT and WRONG…. we prevent creating real change and improving the lives of people stuck on the ''wrong'' side.

  13. [...] and Sass contributor Elle writes about “mommy porn” at Elephant [...]

  14. [...] to promote sexual education as well as defend the porn industry’s right to exist as place where classy, well-spoken and mentally-sane sex workers can create porn with a point-of-view about sex (as opposed to widget-making porn whose only [...]

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